Why Do I Think Of These Questions?

Some things bug me. They probably shouldn’t, but they do. And when things puzzle my brain, I’ll try to find out the reason, the answer. Sometimes though, the explanation isn’t always forthcoming. And for those questions and wonderments, I am terminally troubled.

Why do tins of pineapple rings have a smaller diameter than a typical pineapple?

I mean, how does this Del Monte chap fit them in the tin? I can only presume it is because of one of two reasons; pineapples we buy from the grocers are larger than they would be naturally; or the pineapples used for tins are intentionally a smaller variety or kept from growing larger in order to maximise yields from the land.

Why is Turkish Delight in Britain always packaged in octagonal boxes?

And it seems this only happens in Britain. Very few other places insist on an awkwardly shaped box for their soft and sweet confectionary. Are Brits drawn to octagons, does it denote premium to us, do we see eight-sided shapes as luxurious?

Why are shoelaces always either too short or too long?

They are never just about right… never. It is either a case of pulling them so tight around your foot in order to get enough length to tie a bow, or you have big droopy loops that flop over the sides and get trodden on as you walk. Surely, and understandably, the larger the shoe, the longer the excess lace is needed for tying. But you would have thought that by now shoe manufacturers would have worked out the ideal length of lace needed for a typical foot in its various sizes.

What is the difference between toffee, caramel and butterscotch?

And I do mean, what really is the difference. They taste vaguely the same, they are all generally the same colour, they are all made of basically the same ingredients. But actually, the Internet has helped me with this one, I must admit. Cream or milk is used with caramel, whereas toffee needs butter. Butterscotch can be either, but traditionally and as the name suggests, butter.

The temperatures each are heated to is different, as is the time it is kept as this temperature, which all results in a stark difference to the finished texture. Also, butterscotch uses brown sugar whereas toffee and caramel use white.

So basically, they are all the same thing.

Why does summer rain smell so pleasing?

You know the scent. Most of us seem to like it. It either means a good downpour is nearly upon us or it has already fallen and the temperature has cooled ever so slightly. But how does rain actually smell? Well, again the Internet has helped and this one has been answered. And what’s more, it has a scientific name: Petrichor.

When the raindrops hit dry soil (and therefore more likely to be noticed in summer), air from the pores is pushed up to the surface. From here it releases a mixture of oils and chemicals (geosmin) which our noses are particulary sensitive to. It is this that we are smelling, not the actual raindrops falling from the sky.

It has been suggested humans enjoy the smell because during times of drought when food-producing crops are suffering, the falling of much needed moisture meant survival could be extended.

Can non-mammals wink?

Okay, so humans blink, constantly. We need to do this to prevent our eyes from becoming too dry. And because we can control our muscles, we can wink; the act of only closing one eye at a time.

But can spiders do this? Can spiders close only one eye at a time, and can they control which one? Furthermore, if winking is closing one eye, and blinking is closing two, what is it called if you can close three, four, five…? Or is it a percentage thing? 100% of eyes closed is to blink and 50% is to wink? Therefore, if a spider closes all eight eyes, is that a blink? And only four eyes at a time, is that a wink?

Spoiler: Spiders don’t have eyelids. The question is moot. The thought process though, now that’s interesting.

And finally…

Why are shorts called shorts?

If shirts with short sleeves are called short-sleeved shirts, why aren’t trousers with short legs called short-legged trousers?

Why do shortened trousers get to abbreviate their name whereas the shirt equivalent gets a double-barrelled moniker? In fact, shortened trousers have a shortened name (by two-thirds if we accept they should be called short-legged trousers) but shortened shirts have a lengthened name (it’s three times the amount of words). That’s just not fair.

Further Reading

On Being British – Thoughts & Quirks About Brits